Southampton University research seminar – Class, Control, and Classical Music

I was delighted to be invited to the Music Department at Southampton University on 13 November 2019 to talk about my book. You can watch the talk below, as well as questions and discussion afterwards.

I talked predominantly about how class inequalities in wider society affect young people playing classical music, and also about how the practices of classical music can sometimes entrench these inequalities. There’s a lot more in the book that I didn’t manage to fit into this talk – in particular about classical music and whiteness, as well as about gender, but this gives you a taster of some of the material (predominantly from chapter 4 of the book).

Southampton University research seminar – Class, Control, and Classical Music

Anna Bull and George Burrows book launch

I was delighted to co-host a book launch with my colleague George Burrows from the School of Art, Design, and Performance at the University of Portsmouth. By chance we had both published books within a couple of months of each other with Oxford University Press music. So we decided to hold a joint book launch in Portsmouth. Rather than talking about our own books, we each introduced the other’s book – a rather nerve-wracking but overall very enjoyable way to do it.  Continue reading “Anna Bull and George Burrows book launch”

Anna Bull and George Burrows book launch

Musical standards and middle-class affinities

I recently posted a brief introduction to my new book, Class, control, and classical music. The book draws on research with young people aged 16-21 in youth classical music ensembles in the south of England. In this post, I want to look at another aspect of my argument: how musical standards of ability contribute to retaining classical music in the UK as a middle-class space.

Previous research on middle-class identities in the UK has argued that the middle classes, while far from being a homogeneous group, tend to share ‘a strong commitment to education as key to middle-class cultural reproduction’ (Reay, Crozier, and James 2011, 19), and ‘an ability to erect boundaries, both geographically and symbolically’ (12). It is through these means, and others such as setting up institutions to pass on value through generations, that the middle classes preserve their status over time. One example of how the middle classes erect boundaries is suburbanisation – setting up/colonising areas where they can be with other people like them. Another is private schooling. Studying the middle classes is therefore the study of struggles over boundaries, of inclusions and exclusions to protected spaces, and of the formation of collective identities within these spaces.

So, in what ways (if at all) does musical ‘standard’ work as a middle-class practice of boundary-drawing, and storing value in a protected space? Continue reading “Musical standards and middle-class affinities”

Musical standards and middle-class affinities

Class, Control, and Classical Music

I’m delighted to announce that my book, Class, Control, and Classical Music, is now out with Oxford University Press. Please contact Alyssa Russell at OUP on Alyssa.russell@oup.com if you would like to obtain a review copy.

I recently gave a very short introduction to the book at the Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association. The talk is below, in case you want to get a brief idea of what the book is about. This introduction was aimed at a sociological audience so it focuses on some of the ideas that I thought sociologists would be interested in. I’ll try and blog something about the book for a general audience and a musicology/music education audience as well as soon as I get a minute.

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I’ll start by outlining the problem this book seeks to address. In the UK, as with many other countries across Europe as well as the Global North, cultural production and consumption is heavily stratified by class position – and yet despite this, the vast majority of public funding for culture goes towards those forms of culture consumed by the middle and upper classes. Music is, in the UK, the most divided form of cultural consumption across class and classical music is much more to be played and listened to by the middle classes – for example, Mike Savage (2006) found that those with a bachelor’s degree were six times more likely to listen to classical music than those without. Despite these patterns, sociology has, until recently, neglected classical music as an object of study. However, as I have argued in my book, it is a fascinating lens through which to examine the institutions and subjectivities of modernity. The question the book seeks to answer is why these patterns persist – why does classical music[1] remain the preserve of the white middle classes? Continue reading “Class, Control, and Classical Music”

Class, Control, and Classical Music

Making Power Visible: “Slow Activism” to Address Staff Sexual Misconduct in Higher Education

Ruth Lewis and Susan Marine have edited a special issue of the journal Violence Against Women on activism to address campus sexual violence. This is a timely and important issue and so we are very grateful to the editors for including us in the special issue. Tiffany Page, Emma Chapman and myself contributed an article discussing the modes of activism we are using to work on staff sexual misconduct within higher education. In our article, we argue that in order to activism to address staff sexual misconduct on campus, we first need to make the issue visible. We have attempted to do this through ‘slow activism’ by carrying out research; making complaints; telling survivor stories; and discipline- and sector-level activism for institutional change. Of course, as this work is fairly fast-moving, this article, for which the final version was submitted in September 2018, is a snapshot in time. Nevertheless, given the dearth of research and academic work on this topic in the UK it may be of interest to other activists and researchers in this area in thinking through some of the issues arising as well as thinking through how to make change in this area.

For those who don’t have institutional access, I’ve uploaded a pre-print version of our article. Please note there were a few final edits that are not in this version. The article was covered in Research Fortnight (in case you want the extra-short summary).

I would also strongly recommend taking a look at the other articles in the special issue.

Continue reading “Making Power Visible: “Slow Activism” to Address Staff Sexual Misconduct in Higher Education”

Making Power Visible: “Slow Activism” to Address Staff Sexual Misconduct in Higher Education

The Sociological Review – book review and podcast

One piece of advice that I was given as a PhD student was to think about what my ‘home’ journal was – the academic journal that I feel my research fits most closely into. For me, this was – and still is – The Sociological Review, for its ambitious and activist-oriented re-thinking of sociology for the 21st century. I was thrilled, therefore, to co-run a workshop at the journal’s conference last July, with my wonderful colleague Tiffany Page from The 1752 Group/University of Cambridge. At the conference, we recorded a podcast about our work with The 1752 Group, which you can listen to here.

In addition, I have also recently reviewed Christy Kulz’s brilliant book Factories for Learning for The Sociological Review blog. Christy and I were PhD students at Goldsmiths together, both supervised by Bev Skeggs. Christy’s PhD research – and now her book – were on a flagship academy school in London, looking at how race, class and gender inequalities were reproduced within the school, and how academisation facilitated this. I was always envious of her research, both because she was doing such a politically urgent piece of research, and also because she was doing it so well. The book is a brilliant read – a masterclass in carrying out ethnography with young people – and you can read my review of it here.

The Sociological Review – book review and podcast

Submission to UK govt consultation on sex and relationships education in schools

A few months ago I submitted a response to the UK government’s consultation on sex and relationships education in schools. For a comprehensive discussion of the consultation documents, the End Violence Against Women coalition’s response is worth reading in full. However, in reading this there was one aspect of the consultation document that rang some bells, and so, drawing on my research with Kim Allen, I submitted the following response:

Continue reading “Submission to UK govt consultation on sex and relationships education in schools”

Submission to UK govt consultation on sex and relationships education in schools